For many years I thought that if I didn’t have access to a class or I wasn’t living in a foreign country, that I wouldn’t be able to effectively learn a language. I have since realized how wrong I was. Lucky for those of us today we have access to an abundance of resources online, many of which are absolutely free. I’m not knocking classes or living in a foreign country. I took Spanish classes since middle school and I’m so thankful for that because it taught me grammar rules, basic vocabulary, recognizing patterns and how to study. And one of my dreams is to live abroad.
However, if those two options aren’t available to you right now or don’t interest you, I compiled a list of resources to help language learners. These include apps and websites that you can use from the comfort of your home or on your phone during a lunch break at school or work. No more excuses as to why you can’t learn a language because this is the ultimate guide.
If you’d like to discover what resources at right at your fingertips, keep reading.
AsiHablamos is a great website for Spanish learners who want to understand how people speak day-to-day. Because as you become more advanced and learn more about the language, you realize that people don’t speak like your college textbook. Here, you can look up slang and see exactly what it means. The definitions are also in Spanish, but easy to understand.
You can sort it by country or see if one word has different meanings in different places. I have found this very helpful when I began to consume more content in Spanish. You can even click the “Al Azar” (random) button just to learn a new word to add to your vocabulary.
iTalki is a great resource to converse with native speakers. Not only can you opt to chat with other language learners for free, but you can search through many different tutors to find affordable lessons. The site offers two types of tutors, community tutors and professional tutors. Professional tutors have qualifications such as certifications and tend to be more expensive. But you can find cheap professional tutors as well, especially for more common languages like Spanish, Portuguese, French and English.
Additionally, you can hone in on your own writing skills by using the “notebook” feature on the website to write entries and ask questions in your target language(s). Other users can give feedback and correct mistakes. iTalki also has an app but I prefer to use the website. The app often crashes and you have a limit on how long your messages can be on the app.
If you end up using iTalki, you’ll likely want to get a Skype account. You’ll use Skype for any lessons you book on iTalki as well as for setting up video calls for any language partners you connect with (for free). If you also connect with people through any other language resources mentioned in this app, Skype is a great place to get together. One of the downsides to iTalki is that there’s no voice note feature. Therefore, for language learners who want to practice speaking, you’ll have to opt for either WhatsApp, another language app, or Skype.
Skype has a voice note feature in the messaging system. Also, as mentioned, you can set up a video call and practice speaking when you don’t have time to think about what you want to say beforehand. As of when I’m writing this post, I’ve had two Skype lessons, one video call with a language partner and many chats via Skype, many of which I’ve exchanged voice notes in. Many people prefer using WhatsApp, but I feel a little hesitant to give people my number, especially when I’m just starting to know them.
this may be just a ME thing. I know many people who have shared their WhatsApp/phone numbers with people and have had great experiences. Not saying you should or shouldn’t do this. But for those who are a bit hesitant, this can be another option.
If you’ve been in school within the last several years, you’ve likely heard of this app. Quizlet is a great tool for those who enjoy the flashcard method of studying but don’t want to actually buy index cards (just to throw them out right after the big test, ring any bells?) This app is also a great resource for language learners because there are already hundreds (thousands?) of pre-made sets. Sometimes when I want to learn new vocabulary from whatever language, I will type search for random sets on Quizlet.
My searches include things like “Intermediate Portuguese” or “Spanish advanced” or “Russian alphabet.” You can even get more specific and search for “French home” to find sets with vocabulary regarding the home in French. Quizlet also has a quiz feature to help test if you’ve mastered the phrases. This app is going to be the reason why I’ll have notebooks filled with vocabulary words.
Forvo is the perfect language resource for us learners who are just starting out with a language. But no matter what level you are in your target language, this website can come in handy. Instead of providing you with definitions it provides pronunciations of words. Users who are natives in the specific language upload a audio clip saying each word. For many words, you can listen to several users saying it.
What is even cooler is that you can see what country the person is from. Therefore you can hear accent differences and if you are specifically studying one dialect of a language, this can be very helpful. Here are some examples:
6. Google Translate
Google Translate is one everyone has heard of, language learner or not. I’m sure when Despacito was played non-stop on the radio people ran over to this Google feature to look up words from the hit song. “What does ‘despacito’ mean exactly?” Google Translate has a reputation for not being 100% accurate, and it isn’t all the time. But over the years it’s improved a lot and now I would go out and say for me and the languages I study it’s right more times than it’s wrong.
You already know the jazz, you can type your target language in and have it translated into your native language. Or vice versa. Or translate one language you’re learning into another language you’re learning. Oh, the possibilities! There’s also a pronunciation feature which usually gets the gist of it down. But to avoid sounding like a robot, I’d go with Forvo, listening to Youtube videos and other media in your language or finding language partners.
HiNative is a really useful online resource for language learners who are just starting a language. Have you ever wanted to just simply ask someone how to say something, about a grammar rule or some other basic question? But it’s not really polite to just ask someone a question without engaging in some conversation first. But for those who want to skip all the extra stuff and just get an answer, I present to you: HiNative.
You can get answers to questions you have normally within a few minutes. Similarly to Forvo, users can upload a recording of them pronouncing a word. To share the love, it is expected that you’ll pitch in and answer some questions about your native language as well. This app is a new find for me and I will continue to use it going forward. Beware, this app has a “points” system and I’ve noticed a couple users spam the feed with questions in order to get points, which can get annoying.
SpanishDict was first introduced to me by a Spanish professor in college. This is probably my most used resource for Spanish, definitely top 3. It is available in a traditional website format or an app. I prefer the app as it’s easier for me to navigate. With SpanishDict you can get translations for words and short phrases, from Spanish to English, or the other way around. Not only that, but the app provides the definitions, conjugations of verbs and examples of the words used in sentences.
Another feature I enjoy is the Spanish word of the day. I’ve learned many words I may not have otherwise through this. Oh, and you can hear how the words are pronounced too. Within the definitions of many words they’ll even note if it’s predominantly used in a specific region o country, if it’s a colloquial phrase. Plus more information is provided to ensure you’ll understand when and how to use each word/phrase.
I really wish this was available in Portuguese and Russian (and other languages too!) because it’s just so darn good. The only slight con I have is that on the mobile app random video ads pop up every now and then. So if you’re listening to something it will stop playing and you have to exit the app and press play again. But I deal with it because overall it’s amazing.
If you want a language dictionary that’s for more than just Spanish, Linguee is a great option. This is your standard language dictionary, showing translations, providing pronunciations (for some languages you can hear it said in different accents!), and sentences with the word used. While it doesn’t have some of the extra features I love about SpanishDict, this is still a solid choice. Plus, for those who aren’t learning Spanish or want to go to one place for all of their language dictionary needs, Linguee is great.
One unique feature I appreciate in this language resource is the “less common” examples given. Linguee informs you of other words you may hear to express something, even if its not common. This is great if you want a more robust grasp on the language you’re studying.
I wrote a blog post discussing two popular language apps, HelloTalk and Tandem. Since more time has passed, I can definitively say that I prefer HelloTalk over Tandem. In fact, I pretty much only use Tandem for my bi-weekly lessons with my Spanish tutor who I found through the app, who is awesome. But HelloTalk really is great. I cover the pros and cons more in depth in my blog post. However, you basically need to know that this is a free app where you can partake in a language exchange with others who are learning a language.
Similar to iTalki, but the interface is so much more user friendly. Plus, you can record voice notes and do voice calls. The app is free but has a membership you can pay to upgrade to for added features. You can read my blog post comparing HelloTalk and Tandem by clicking the link below.
I briefly mentioned using Youtube earlier in this post and I have blog posts dedicated to how much I enjoy this app. But seriously, I think you could use Youtube only and you can learn a LOT. Of course I haven’t tested this theory out, hence this post. But I use Youtube for so many different purposes during my language learning journey.
I watch vlogs to help expose myself to the language and read comments to learn new vocabulary & how people speak casually. Additionally, I go to channels of people teaching a language and act like it’s a “class” to dedicate a block of time to a language. I find new music in my target language and save it to a playlist. The options are endless, but Youtube has so many resources available for the language community.
I have playlists dedicated to Spanish, Portuguese and Russian. For me, these are treated as my version of a “Watch Later” playlist, but for videos in that particular language. Thus, if I’m in the mood/studying Spanish, I will pick a video from my “Español” playlist. This keeps the organizational freak in me very happy.
Duolingo is another popular choice in the language learning community. But for good reason. So if you’ve passed this one over because you assumed it’s overhyped, I’d encourage you to give it a try. Duolingo is a funny app and many users poke fun at the ridiculous sentences it teaches you because they’re not exactly ones you’d use in your day-to-day life.
- Cavalos não comem a gente.
Horses do not eat us.
- Aquelas não são as colheres do meu tio.
Those are not my uncles spoons.
- Pardon, ik ben een appel.
Excuse me, I am an apple.
Despite these funny phrases, this app/website is a great resource. And like all the ones mentioned, it’s completely FREE. You can get streaks when you complete a certain amount of lessons each day, which is great motivation. Or if you’re like me can cause great heartache when you forget one night and ruin it all. I still remember that 50+ day streak…
Pro Tip: You can also access notes for many of the lessons. These notes explain grammatical rules, how something is used, cultural aspects and more. They are extremely helpful. For some reason I don’t always see them on the app, but if you do online they’re usually always there. Just click the little light bulb when you choose a lesson.
I’ve helped off from Reddit for so long because I had absolutely zero idea on how to navigate it. While it still does cause me a headache sometimes, I can get lost on the thousands of Reddit posts and boards for HOURS. In short, Reddit is an online community where people gather to write… uh, stuff. Anything, everything. Sometimes they don’t even write, they just share: photos, videos, links, etc.
Luckily for us, there is a pretty big language community. You follow certain boards dedicated to those who speak or are learning your target language. For example, there’s: /r/spanish, /r/learnspanish, /r/Portuguese, and /r/russian. My favorite general language subreddit is /r/languagelearning.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post. I hope you found it helpful and will use at least one app or online resource in the future as you continue to learn languages. What are some of your favorite resources?